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Saving the Everglades from sea-level rise means much more to South Florida than just protecting panthers, alligators and pythons.

Without the Everglades as a buffer to hurricanes and as a source of drinking water, its people living in South Florida risk becoming the endangered species.

The Everglades guards our western flank during hurricanes, absorbing storm surge and the drenching rains that can come from hurricanes blowing in from the Gulf.

Long after storm season passes, we rely on Everglades water seeping into and replenishing underground supplies we tap for drinking water.

But if the rising sea turns the Everglades into an inland sea, then climate change damage will get even closer to home for Southeast Florida.

So just as South Florida communities are collaborating to get ready for flooding from a projected two-foot sea-level rise by 2060, we also must face the sea’s assault from the west. That’s why protecting what remains of the Everglades is more important than ever. Like a dying patient desperate for a cure, the Everglades “has no chance of surviving” without Everglades restoration, said Dr. Randall Parkinson, research associate professor within the Institute of Water and Environment.

According to Parkinson, “We are better off trying to keep the patient healthy.”

Parkinson is among the scientists warning that without more restoration, sea-level rise – worsened by pollution-fueled climate change – could become the final, and fatal, injury humans inflict on the Everglades.

Half of the Everglades has already been drained to make room for sugar cane and development that occupy land where shallow waters once flowed unfettered from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay.

Now, if we don’t do more to halt rising seas, the Everglades could wash away, a self-inflicted wound from which South Florida can’t recover.

Read the South Florida Sun Sentinel article for the full story by their editorial board.